Cannabis concentrates, oils, and extracts offer many unique benefits that you won’t find smoking flower. From easy, precise dosing to clean and refined flavors, concentrates focus on the ingredients in cannabis that matter most. In this series, you’ll learn how to buy THC concentrates online, the fundamentals of concentrates, explore product options, discover how extracts are made, and more.
Cannabis oils, concentrates, and extracts—these all serve as umbrella terms under which sits a warehouse of different products: vape oil, hash, tinctures, dabs, CBD oil, and every other product dreamed up by cannabis chemists.
An oil, concentrate, or extract is any product derived from cannabis flower that is processed into a concentrated form, but each type of cannabis oil is unique.
But why bother with concentrates when you have tried-and-true bud? Flower may be good enough for you, but there are many reasons to explore the many options—and medicines—offered in extract form:
- You don’t have to smoke extracts. Most consumers choose to vaporize or ingest concentrates for a smoke-free dose.
- Cannabis oils are efficient. It takes less product to achieve the desired experience.
- Extracts are refined. Essential oils and cannabinoids are separated from plant material to create a smooth, clean* inhale when vaporized. (*Keep yourself educated on how to find high-quality cannabis oil and avoid unreliable, poorly crafted extracts.)
Types of cannabis oil
In this series, we’ll explore the many cannabis concentrate options available to you (depending on your local cannabis laws). Here’s a brief list of broad extract types to familiarize you with what’s to come in this series:
- CBD oil refers to non-intoxicating products that are popularly used to treat a variety of medical conditions. It’s most commonly sold as a tincture or in capsule form.
- THC oil refers to intoxicating oils that are also popularly used medically, but also deliver euphoric effects. THC-infused oils come in many forms, but the most popular are solids that can be vaporized (called dabs), tinctures, and capsules.
- Vaporizer cartridges are portable, easy-to-dose oil attachments that pair with a battery. It’s essentially an e-cigarette, but with cannabis.
- Ingestible oils refer to activated oil that you can consume with food/drinks or in capsule form.
Every extract serves a different purpose and consumer type, so we’ve broken our recommendations down based on your experience with concentrates:
- New to cannabis concentrates? Part 2 of this series will introduce you to the most common cannabis oils and extracts, and provide product recommendations for inexperienced consumers.
- Ready to graduate past tinctures and vape pens? Part 3 will introduce you to additional extract forms that you can vaporize, dab, or ingest.
- Are you a true extract enthusiast? Part 4 will guide you toward cutting-edge concentrates perfect for the oil connoisseur.
How Potent is This Form of Marijuana?
Marijuana concentrates contain extraordinarily high THC levels ranging from 40 to 80 percent THC amounts. This form of marijuana can be up to four times stronger in THC content than high grade or top shelf marijuana, which normally measures around 20 percent THC levels.
One form of abuse occurs orally by infusing marijuana concentrates in various food or drink products. Smoking remains the most popular form of ingestion by use of water or oil pipes.
Many abusers of marijuana concentrates also prefer using an e-cigarette/vaporizer because it is smokeless, odorless and easy to hide. The user takes a “dab” of the concentrate, then heats the substance using the e-cigarette/vaporizer, producing vapors that ensure an instant high.
Using an e-cigarette/vaporizer to ingest marijuana concentrates is commonly referred to as “dabbing” or “vaping.”
Being a highly concentrated form of marijuana, the effects upon the user may be more psychologically and physically intense than plant marijuana use.
To date, long term effects of marijuana concentrate use are not yet fully known; but, we do know the effects of plant marijuana use. These effects include paranoia, anxiety, panic attacks, and hallucinations.
Additionally, the use of plant marijuana increases one’s heart rate and blood pressure. Plant marijuana users may also experience withdrawal and addiction problems.
In 2017, 22.9% of high school seniors used marijuana in the past 30 days compared with 9.7% who smoked cigarettes. Source: NIDA, 2017 Monitoring the Future Survey
Measured in the MTF survey this year, the use of electronic cigarettes (vaping) to use marijuana. Reporting use in the past month:
- – 1.6 percent of 8th graders
- – 4.3 percent of 10th graders
- – 4.9 percent of 12th graders
How are concentrates made?
Marijuana concentrates can be made in a commercial environment with modern equipment or prepared in a home setting.2 They are produced in various ways, including:
- – dry processing (kief, finger hash)
- – dry ice processing
- – water-based processing (bubble hash)
- – combining pressure with heat
- – using nonflammable carbon dioxide solvents
- – using flammable solvents, including butane (lighter fluid), propane, ether or alcohol
Using flammable solvents is popular because the products have high THC levels, users report longer-lasting effects, and it is a relatively inexpensive and efficient production method. Butane is a commonly used solvent, producing the potent marijuana concentrate butane hash oil (BHO), also known as amber, dab, glass, honey, shatter, or wax.
What does the final product look like?
The products resulting from these methods may be:
- – a gooey liquid wax (hash oil or honey oil)
- – a soft solid with a texture like lip balm (wax or budder)
- – a hard, amber-colored solid (shatter)
Hash oil and waxes can be consumed using vape pens. Solids can also be placed on a heated platform usually made of titanium, quartz, or ceramic, where they are vaporized by high heat and inhaled through a dabbing tool, often called a rig.
The terms used to describe these products vary. Concentrates is a broad term referring to all products that have been extracted from the plant. Although extracts and concentrates are often used interchangeably, some people define extracts as products manufactured using solvents, but not those pulled from the plant with non-solvent methods. Dabs may refer to products made exclusively from butane hash oil; however, the term is sometimes used colloquially for concentrates extracted in other ways. There are also post-production methods that lead to further variations in products and terms.
What are the health effects of concentrates?
There are adverse effects associated with marijuana use in any form, though additional research is needed to understand how the use of concentrate may differ from smoking dried marijuana buds. Marijuana concentrates have very high levels of THC. Solvent-based products tend to be especially potent, with THC levels documented at an average of about 54-69% and reported to exceed 80%, while non-solvent based extraction methods produce average THC levels between 39-60%. In comparison, the THC content in marijuana plant material, which is often used in marijuana cigarettes, is lower—with samples seized by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency averaging just over 15%. Not only do concentrates have high levels of THC, but dabbers inhale the entire amount all at once—in a single breath. As a result, concentrates can deliver extremely large amounts of THC to the body quickly. The risks of physical dependence and addiction increase with exposure to high concentrations of THC, and higher doses of THC are more likely to produce anxiety, agitation, paranoia, and psychosis. Additional research is needed to understand how the use of concentrate affects these risks.
In addition, contaminants in concentrate products may be cause for concern. One study noted that 80% of tested concentrate samples were contaminated in some form, not only with pesticides (which is also a concern for dried bud), but also with residual solvents that were not fully purged in the manufacturing process. Users of BHO, for example, likely inhale some butane and other impurities along with the vaporized THC. It is important to note that direct inhalation of concentrated butane among recreational inhalant users carries multiple risks, including reported deaths. However, it is unclear what negative health outcomes result from the inhalation of residual butane, other solvents, or leftover contaminants during the dabbing process.
Types Of Cannabis Concentrates
Many people refer to concentrates by their consistency, i.e. shatter, budder or wax. However, the consistency of a concentrate alone does not indicate which extraction technique was used. The same extraction method can deliver a variety of final-product consistencies, depending on a number of factors.
The method of extraction and the starting material is far more important than the concentrate’s final consistency, as there are several variables that manipulate the consistency; some are in control of the extraction artist, while others are not. The reason for this distinction is that extraction practices dictate the healthiness of the concentrate, while the consistency is largely preference-based from a consumer standpoint.
For instance, many people debate shatter vs. budder; but shatter can be converted to budder by simply whipping the concentrate on a hot plate. Furthermore, you can derive a buddery consistency via BHO, PHO, and CO2 extraction. It’s the solvent (if any) and starting material that matters. Starting material can range from dry trim to cured buds to fresh frozen whole plants. It’s your responsibility as a thoughtful consumer to inquire from your budtender about the starting material and extraction process used in your favorite concentrate.
- – Shatter. Shatter is one of the most popular forms of cannabis concentrates made through a butane-based extraction and is considered a form of Butane Hash Oil (BHO). The process involves taking dried cannabis flower and using butane to separate the trichomes (which contain all of the plant’s cannabinoids and terpenes) from the plant material. The trichomes are then processed into shatter, which carries highly concentrated amounts of these cannabinoids (like THC) and terpenes.
- – Wax. Wax is another form of BHO and is sometimes called Budder, named after its soft, waxy consistency and golden color. This form of concentrate often offers high potencies just like shatter, but degrades more quickly and isn’t considered to be as stable as hard-form concentrates. Therefore, wax needs to be used soon after purchase, as opposed to some concentrates that may hold their potency for months or years. However, the soft consistency of wax makes it easier to work with for many users, since it can be easily separated into doses as needed (as compared to shatter, which is hard to portion because it breaks into unpredictable pieces). The strong, immediate effects are comparable to shatter and other BHO products.
- – Live Resin. Live resin is one of the newest forms of cannabis concentrates and is also considered to be a form of Butane Hash Oil. It differs from other forms of BHO (and most concentrates) in multiple ways that make it more appealing for some users, especially those hoping to reap the many medicinal benefits associated with the cannabis plant. Unlike other concentrates, which are generally processed from dried cannabis flower, this concentrate is made using nearly the entire plant immediately after harvest. Making it requires expensive, high-quality equipment (which need to be operated by professionals), so it isn’t the type of concentrate you can make at home.
- – Isolate. An isolate is any concentrate that has been ‘isolated’ to a single cannabinoid. Naturally, if the cannabinoid is THC, it’s an extremely potent way to inhale cannabis. Did you know you can achieve the same fast-acting results with CBD dabs? CBD concentrates and isolates can be used in any dab rig or dabber to provide high doses of pure CBD for intensive symptom relief in minutes. Derived from organic, non-GMO, sustainably-grown hemp and batch-tested for quality, purity, and potency, CBD isolate is exceptional and effective.
- – Budder. Budder refers to cannabis extracts with a creamy, buttery consistency. It is also called crumble or cake batter. The consistency is comparable to soft wax and is much more forgiving to work with than shatter. Perhaps the only downside to budder is that it is less visually appealing than some other consistencies. Budder can be vaped, dabbed, twaxed (inside the joint or blunt), smoked, or used in edibles. Once again, make sure to activate the wax prior to combining with your oil or butter if you’re going to be using it for edibles.